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Capture of John II of France, Poitiers

Capture of John II of France, Poitiers

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King John II of France surrendering his sword to Denis de Morbeck (a knight of Artois) at the battle of Poitiers, 1356 (1793). From Ashburton's History of England, by Charles Alfred Ashburton. [W. & J. Stratford, High Holborn, London, 1793]

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John II of France

John II (French: Jean II 26 April 1319 – 8 April 1364), called John the Good (French: Jean le Bon), was a monarch of the House of Valois who ruled as King of France from 1350 until his death.

When John II came to power, France was facing several disasters: the Black Death, which caused the death of nearly half of its population popular revolts known as Jacqueries free companies (Grandes Compagnies) of routiers who plundered the country and English aggression that resulted in disastrous military losses, including the Battle of Poitiers of 1356, in which John was captured.

While John was a prisoner in London, his son Charles became regent and faced several rebellions, which he overcame. To liberate his father, he concluded the Treaty of Brétigny (1360), by which France lost many territories and paid an enormous ransom.

In an exchange of hostages, which included his second son Louis, Duke of Anjou, John was released from captivity to raise funds for his ransom. Upon his return in France, he created the franc to stabilize the currency and tried to get rid of the free companies by sending them to a crusade, but Pope Innocent VI died shortly before their meeting in Avignon. When John was informed that Louis had escaped from captivity, he voluntarily returned to England, where he died in 1364. He was succeeded by his son Charles V.

Surrender Of King John II Of France At The Battle Of Poitiers, By Henri-Louis Dupray (c. 1841-1909)

This image, created by the French artist Henri-Louis Dupray (c. 1841-1909), depicts the surrender of King John II of France to the forces of Edward “the Black Prince” of England at the Battle of Poitiers on September 19, 1356. Dupray’s illustration closely follows the account of the chronicler, Jean Froissart (c. 1337-1410), who wrote of how the English troops struggled amongst themselves to be the first to capture the French king and the king’s son, Philip, who was also present at the battle. Amid the cacophony of Englishmen shouting “surrender” in poorly-pronounced French, one of the voices (speaking the king’s language perfectly) stood out to King John II—this eloquent knight is likely the man Henri-Louis Dupray depicted in the center of the image, with his arm outstretched toward King John and Prince Philip. Jean Froissart described the scene:

“’Who are you?’ the King asked. ‘Sire, I am Denis de Morbecque, a knight from Artois. But I serve the King of England because I have been exiled from France and have forfeited all my possessions.’ Then, as I [Jean Froissart] was informed, the King answered, or probably answered: ‘I surrender to you’, and gave him his right-hand glove” (Chronicles, Book One, Penguin translation pg. 141).

Despite the king’s submittal to Sir Denis de Morbecque, the squabbles among the Englishmen about who would claim credit for the capture did not abate until the Black Prince sent trusted aides to the scene to ensure the king and his son were treated with respect.

Capture of John II of France, Poitiers - History

10 Years after the English victory in Crecy an Anglo/Gascon Army led by Edward of Woodstock won a great victory at Poitiers on 19 September 1356. Once again a French Army was decimated by the despised English but what made this victory different was not only the capture of the French King, John II, but the fact that was a victory won by all arms, not just the longbow.

In the 10 years since Crecy, the Black Death had ravaged Europe and England in particular. As a result, there had been a halt to hostilities between the two countries. In the respite, the French King carried out many much needed reforms to the French military system in particular in the training and equipping of crossbowmen and the defenses of towns.

In 1355, the English launched a series of Chevauchees against the French. The Prince of Wales&rsquos Chevauchee, known as the Great Chevauchee, ravaged the south of France as far as Narbonne, causing immense damage to the French economy.

On 19 September 1356, the French encounter the rearguard of the English Army. Edward and his generals are planning to retreat but they see a chance to strike. The battle that ensues is both bloody and decisive. By the end of the day, a large part of the French aristocracy was dead, dying or prisoner, including King John II. The Anglo/Gascon army was enriched beyond its wildest dreams with the ransoms that would be paid.

This campaign was a masterpiece of strategic warfare. In 3 months, the Anglo/Gascon had carried out a devastating campaign of economic warfare that undermined the French State and destroyed the wealth of a major area of France. The final gloss on the campaign was the victory battle and the capture of the French King.

In this program, the BHTV team uses their experience as soldiers and guides to bring this iconic campaign to life. The team examines the political, military and economic background to the campaign and brings the subject to life by visits to all the major locations, skillful use of maps and complimented by re-enactment footage and vignettes of life and combat in 1356.

The capture of the French King

Froissart again gives us a vivid description of the capture of King Jean II and his youngest son in this passage:

" . So many Englishmen and Gascons came to that part, that perforce they opened the king's battle, so that the Frenchmen were so mingled among their enemies that sometime there was five men upon one gentleman. There was taken the lord of Pompadour and ^ the lord Bartholomew de Burghersh, and there was slain sir Geoffrey of Charny with the king's banner in his hands : also the lord Raynold Cobham slew the earl of Dammartin. Then there was a great press to take the king, and such as knew him cried, ' Sir, yield you, or else ye are but dead.' There was a knight of Saint Omer's, retained in wages with the king of England, called sir Denis Morbeke, who had served the Englishmen five year before, because in his youth he had forfeited the realm of France for a murder that he did at Saint-Omer's. It happened so well for him, that he was next to the king when they were about to take him : he stept forth into the press, and by strength of his body and arms he came to the French king and said in good F'rench, ' Sir, yield you.' The king beheld the knight and said : ' To whom shall I yield me ? Where is my cousin the prince of Wales ? If I might see him, I would speak with him.' Denis answered and said : ' Sir, he is not here  but yield you to me and I shall bring you to him. ' ' Who be you ? ' quoth the king. ' Sir,' quoth he, ' I am Denis of Morbeke, a knight of Artois  but I serve the king of England because I am banished the realm. of France and I have forfeited all that I had there.' Then the king gave him his right gauntlet, saying, ' I yield me to you.' . ⎝] "

Poitiers, battle of

Poitiers, battle of, 1356. Edward, the Black Prince's blooding had been at Crຜy in 1346 and he spent much of the next ten years campaigning in France. In August 1356 he was before Bourges but threatened by a much larger army under John II of France. The English attempted to retreat towards Bordeaux but found their way blocked at Poitiers. The Black Prince offered terms, hoping to avoid battle, but on 19 September the French attacked. Archers, lying in ditches and behind hedges, broke up the first assaults, and in their last attack the French were taken in the flank. The large number of prisoners included the French king. Since King David of Scotland, captured at Neville's Cross in 1346, was still a prisoner, Edward III now had two kings on his hands.

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Did the Black Prince’s campaign of terror win his spurs?

On the evening of 19 September 1356, the heir to the throne of the England entertained the king of France in his tent, near the town of Poitiers in western France. However, this was no ordinary royal meeting. The king had been captured on the field of battle and was at the mercy of one of the most legendary figures in Medieval history.

Although he was only in his mid-20s, Edward, Prince of Wales, was at the pinnacle of his military career. His life personally symbolises the first half of the Hundred Years’ War, when England fought for the right to wear the French crown. Edward, along with his father and namesake Edward III, epitomises the martial glory of the initial English victories and gained a reputation for courage and chivalry. However, Edward is known to history as the ‘Black Prince’, and, in many ways, his conduct in France was coldly brutal to those who denied their allegiance to him.

His life was a contradictory mixture of idealistic heroism and barbaric terror. Born in 1330, Edward was brought up to be a soldier. In the Medieval world, the ideal king had to be a warrior and Edward III wanted his son to be in military training from an early age. At the age of seven, Edward had already been equipped with a complete suit of armour and in the same year the conflict that would become known as the Hundred Years’ War began. Prince Edward would spend the rest of his life vigorously, and sometimes controversially, fighting his father’s cause and his military career began in earnest at the age of 16.

Edward, Prince of Wales was one of the founding members of the Order of the Garter, England’s most prestigious chivalric order

In July 1346, Edward III’s army landed unopposed in France at La Hogue. The following day, the king knighted Prince Edward to mark the beginning of his career as a soldier. The prince immediately exercised his rights to create other knights and in the subsequent march across Normandy the vanguard was nominally under his command. The French caught up with the English on the north bank of the River Somme and Edward III selected a site near the village of Crécy in order to give battle.

The English numbered between 9,000-12,000 men but were fighting a French army of about 30,000 under King Philip VI. Edward III deployed his men in defensive order on a hill with archers and two divisions in the front, and the king’s division forming the reserve. Prince Edward was in the centre of his men, surrounded by his household knights and two earls. Although the French and Genoese soldiers were continually harassed by English longbows, the brunt of the hand-to-hand fighting fell on the prince’s men.

The Battle of Crécy was the first decisive English land victory during Hundred Years’ War

Young Edward was in the thick of the fighting from the outset, and many stories are now attached to his conduct. It was reported that the duke of Alençon, who led the first French charge, beat down the prince’s standard before he was killed. A second French charge penetrated into Edward’s division and the prince was in considerable personal danger. Some said that he was forced to his knees and captured by the count of Hainault before he was rescued by his standard-bearer Sir Richard Fitz-Simon. In what would normally have been a serious breach of discipline, Fitz-Simon had to lower his banner in order to defend the prince.

One of the most famous stories concerns the messenger sent to Edward III at the moment of crisis to request help for the prince. The king reputedly replied, “Let the boy win his spurs.” When Edward III eventually sent 20 knights to rescue his son, he found the prince and his men resting and leaning on their swords, having repulsed the French attack.

Prince Edward’s courage during his first major engagement at the Battle of Crécy impressed his contemporaries. According to legend, he honoured the memory of the slain, blind King John of Bohemia by adopting his personal badge of three feathers as his own, which is still the symbol of the Prince of Wales today.

Prince Edward pays his respects to the fallen King John of Bohemia in this romanticised painting

There was, however, a contrasting response to the knightly bravura. According to a Hainault chronicler, when Edward III asked his son what he thought of going into battle it is reported that the prince “said nothing and was ashamed”. If this account were true, then it would be at odds with Edward’s later behaviour on the battlefield.

Clash on the waves

After Crécy, the French signed a truce with the English that was prolonged by the outbreak of the Black Death but by the summer of 1350 the war resumed. English plans for an Anglo-Castilian marriage alliance involving Edward’s sister Joan fell apart when she died of the plague. The French seized this opportunity to encourage the Castilians to send a large fleet to harass shipping in the English Channel.

By July 1350, the English had assembled a fleet at Sandwich and in mid-August a Castilian host was off Winchelsea. Both Prince Edward and his father embarked on 28 August and the two fleets engaged the next evening. The English rammed and boarded Castilian ships before the crews clashed on the decks. In the fray, the king’s ship was sunk and Edward III had to scramble aboard a Castilian ship. Similarly, Prince Edward’s ship was sinking when his brother John of Gaunt sailed alongside and rescued him. The battle was a fierce contest but ended with the retreat of the Castilians at twilight, with the remainder being captured by the English.

Afterwards the king and his sons anchored at Winchelsea and Rye and conscripted horses from the towns to convey the news to Queen Philippa. It is recorded that the royal family spent the night revelling and recounting tales of the day’s fighting, which appears to be a coldly decadent contrast to the maritime slaughter that had taken place only hours before.

Edward III made much of his naval victory and the new coinage of 1351 reflected his claim to be the ‘King of the Sea’ with the martial monarch shown to be standing in a ship. As for Prince Edward, the fight at Winchelsea only served to enhance his warrior reputation, which would increase in the years ahead. His career would also begin to be tainted by a harshness in his conduct of the war in France.

This gold English noble coin from the early 1350s depicts Edward III sitting in a cog as ‘King of the Sea’

“Le terrible Prince Noir”

Final truces with France ended in the mid 1350s and Prince Edward was granted his own theatre of operations in Gascony, which at that time was an English possession. The prince was enthusiastic and wrote that he “prayed the king to grant him leave to be the first to pass beyond the sea”. He formally sailed to southwest France with full powers to administer English territories there. He also received a military contract of service, which made provisions for events such as the capture of “the head of the war” (the main French commander) and the prince’s own possible capture.

Edward landed at Bordeaux on 20 September 1355 and his combined Anglo-Gascon army of 6,000-8,000 men set out on 5 October with the aim of conducting a ‘chevauchée’ – a raid designed to weaken the enemy’s supplies and prestige by deliberately burning and pillaging towns and villages. It was effectively a form of authorised terrorism and was used throughout the Hundred Years’ War, with Edward helping to legitimise this wanton destruction.

The Black Prince is granted Aquitaine by his father Edward III

The prince’s target in 1355 was the land of Jean d’Armagnac, who had been appointed by John II of France to put pressure on English territories. Once his army reached enemy lands on 10 October, it moved into three columns and spread out to live off the land and a fortnight was spent ravaging d’Armagnac lands. The army even had portable bridges to increase the range of the pillaging. Edward then moved into Languedoc and was able to inflict considerable damage on local towns, including the town of Carcassonne, which he seized and burned.

By 8 November he had reached the furthest point of his march at Narbonne on the Mediterranean shore where the town was taken despite fierce resistance – but its castle held out. Edward returned to friendly territory on 27 November, having not once engaged the French in open battle. The French had deliberately avoided him, making them appear hesitant and thereby giving the prince a propaganda victory.

English armies became notorious for the rampant looting and pillaging they inflicted in France throughout the Hundred Years’ War

The chevauchée was a nightmare for the people of southern France. At Montisgard it was recorded that men, women and children were slaughtered indiscriminately and this was a scene that was repeated across the region. In the 19th century, carbonised remains of burnt grain could still be found in the ruins of Montbrun-Lauragais and it was said that even the pope feared for his safety at Avignon. It is likely that Edward’s famous nickname originates from this raid – in the parts that he passed through he was known as ‘le terrible Prince Noir’. The damage was such that well into the 20th century there was a local oral tradition among regional peasants who related stories about a figure known as ‘L’Homme Noir’ who had passed by with an army in the Middle Ages.

The chevauchée also disrupted the economic productivity of the region and the French ability to withstand English attacks was consequently diminished. Edward’s steward explained, “The countryside and towns which have been destroyed in this raid produced more revenue for the king of France in aid of his wars than half his kingdom.” In December 1355, Edward justified the raid in a letter to the Bishop of Winchester: “We rode afterwards through the land of Armagnac, harrying and wasting the country, whereby the lieges of our said most honoured lord, whom the count had before oppressed, were much comforted.” Edward was implying that the local nobility were grateful for his intervention but was apparently unconcerned about the suffering that his army committed. This coldness implies that Edward only reserved his chivalric behaviour for fellow members of the nobility.

Triumph at Poitiers

In August 1356, Edward launched another chevauchée into France from Aquitaine. He adopted a scorched earth policy as he advanced north to ease pressure on English garrisons in northern and central France, but was stopped at Tours when he failed to take the castle. At the same time, he heard that John II was marching south from Normandy to destroy his army at Tours. Edward began to retreat back towards Bordeaux but the French king caught up with him near Poitiers.

The Battle of Poitiers was the second of three famous English victories during the war, which included the battles of Crécy and Agincourt

At this stage, Edward offered to give up the loot his army had stolen in exchange for a safe passage but this was rebuffed. With no options left, he turned his Anglo-Gascon army of 6,000 men to face a French army of at least 20,000 on 19 September. He formed his army into three divisions with his archers on the flanks and retained his own division in the rear with an elite cavalry unit. Edward then arranged his men behind a low hedge for protection, with marshes to the left and wagons to the right.

King John arranged his own men into four ‘battles’ led by himself, the dauphin, Baron Clermont and the duke of Orléans. Both the dauphin and Clermont attacked the English but were swept back by hails of arrows and counterattacks by English men-at-arms. The dauphin’s forces then crashed into Orléans’ approaching division before running into John’s troops, which caused confusion. Had the French not panicked at this stage, they could have routed Edward’s men, who were becoming exhausted and had started to collect their wounded. Instead, Edward ordered his men to break cover from the hedge and charge the French while simultaneously launching his cavalry to flank the enemy. After a hard fight, the English stood their ground and the French line collapsed.

It was a huge victory for Edward. At a minimal cost, 2,000 Frenchmen were killed with another 2,000 captured including the biggest prize: King John II. He was brought to Edward’s tent, where the prince served him and according to one chronicler said that John’s personal bravery “had outdone his own greatest knights”. This was little consolation to John who was taken back to England in triumph.

The capture of John II at Poitiers was a huge success for the Black Prince and a costly humiliation for France

Edward was treated to a great procession in London, where the water conduits apparently ran with wine, while John wore a sombre black robe. He had good reason to – his capture had huge ramifications in France where his ransom was more than the yearly income of the country. Some said it was twice as much and John eventually died in English captivity, with his country in a broken state of anarchy.

Into darkness

Poitiers was the pinnacle of Edward’s military career and he seemed ready to succeed his father as a powerful King Edward IV of England. He ruled Aquitaine as a semi-independent principality between the years of 1360 and 1367, and won a further dramatic victory in Spain at Nájera in 1367. Nevertheless, after the Spanish campaign his health began to deteriorate rapidly. In a highly controversial incident at the Siege of Limoges in 1370, a now litter-bound prince ordered the sacking of the captured town.

According to the chronicler, Jean Froissart, “It was a most melancholy business for all ranks, ages and sexes cast themselves on their knees before the prince, begging for mercy but he was so inflamed with passion and revenge that he listened to none, but all were put to the sword, wherever they could be found.” This has since been highly disputed among historians but, whatever the truth, Limoges greatly stained Edward’s reputation.

The prince’s health continued to deteriorate and he died aged 46 in 1376, just one year before his father. The once mighty prince never became king of England – his son would take that role in his place as Richard II. Edward, the Black Prince instead left a mixed legacy of military glory, selective chivalry and a bitter memory of brutal bloodshed.

The Black Prince is buried in Canterbury Cathedral where his helmet, shield, gauntlets, and jupon (padded shirt) are still displayed

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Jean A Poitiers

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Charles V of France dies at Poitiers

As it says on the tin, let's say that during the Battle of Poitiers, Charles, Dauphin of France, later Charles V is badly wounded in the fighting, and subsequently dies. His father John is still captured.

Charles has died without any sons, only two daughters.

His brother Louis I, Duke of Anjou is now the Dauphin.

What happens next? how does Louis do as regent of France whilst his father is imprisoned?







France may well be fucked.

It needed a man like Charles on the helm following the disasters that were Philip VI and John II, Louis doesn't seem particularly competent or incompetent to me, kinda average. So if he restarts the war like his brother did but doesn't handle it as well as Charlie did. well it ain't Agincourt but a Plantagenet France seems a legit possibility. Especially if TBP doesn't excessively tax the Gascons.

As for Louis himself, his Italian ambitions are almost definitely butterflied, perhaps John the Magnificent is heir designate ATL?

Also (assuming his marriage isn't butterflied, it probably is tbh), this may permanently align Montfort to the English. No playing both sides against each other etc.


France may well be fucked.

It needed a man like Charles on the helm following the disasters that were Philip VI and John II, Louis doesn't seem particularly competent or incompetent to me, kinda average. So if he restarts the war like his brother did but doesn't handle it as well as Charlie did. well it ain't Agincourt but a Plantagenet France seems a legit possibility. Especially if TBP doesn't excessively tax the Gascons.

As for Louis himself, his Italian ambitions are almost definitely butterflied, perhaps John the Magnificent is heir designate ATL?

Also (assuming his marriage isn't butterflied, it probably is tbh), this may permanently align Montfort to the English. No playing both sides against each other etc.


CaptainShadow and I discussed something similar to this recently, and I have to agree with his assessment here:

Watch the video: Ακολουθία του Εσπερινού--22 Σεπτεμβρίου Σύλληψη Αγίου Ιωάννου του Προδρόμου (May 2022).


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